Ask Jo: African Violets

I’ve been getting more and more questions about my African Violets.  I do not claim to be an expert.  I can only tell you what works for me. One of the first question I got was: What are the flower pots that I have in my window with the starter plants?


I purchased these through Amazon.  When I originally purchased them the pots were white and that’s what I prefer.  I was kind of sad when I saw that they are now only available with terra cotta colored planters. (here is a link for them)

Each little pot for started plants has a “wick” like this.

Part of the wick goes into the water that is in the bottom of the clear container that the pot sits in and the other part goes up into the bottom of the of the pot holding the plant.  This wick allows the small new plant roots to suck up the appropriate amount of water that it needs. One of the reasons I am successful with growing my African Violets is that I use these pots.  My little starts always have the right amount of water. There are white 2″ pots that will fit the clear cups that I will likely order next time.  I like the look of the white in my window better than I like the terra cotta.

Next up I get asked about pots for the larger plants. Well I have come up with my own self watering method for them.  I save all the containers I get when I purchase a violet.  The ones from Wal-Mart are especially useful.  They already come with a pot inside a pot which is what self watering is.

I end up with a problem though.  I have trouble once the plants are larger in lifting the inside pot out.  Here’s what I do to remedy that.  I place a recycled plastic lid in the bottom of the outside container.  That prevents the inside container from going to the bottom of the outside container.  I put water in there and the plant can get it and I can still lift the inside container out without damaging the plant.

See how the recycled lid lifts the inside container higher?violets-3
I’ve come up with a few other similar options.  I bought two identical planters for 75 cents each at Menards.

I had Hubby drill holes in the bottom of the inside container.  It works the same way.  These don’t have a wick like the smaller containers but the plants have grown enough of a root system by the time they are big enough for these pots that they don’t need the wick anymore.


Here’s a favorite of mine that’s blooming now.  It’s a second bloom on this one for me.  The plant has a ways to go before it’s filled out with leaves but it’s doing really well.  I love variegated plants.

Once they get to this size I make a hard decision…do I love the plant enough to invest $8 for a planter?  If the answer is yes, it gets planted into a ceramic self watering planter.  I get these at the big box stores.  I have yet to find a resource on line that sells them at this price.


I LOVE the self watering planters.  I have raised Violets on and off for years.  I have NEVER had the luck that I am having now…I believe it is mostly due to the pots.

So many of my Violets are in full bloom right now.  They are gorgeous.   The one on the right is a cheap Wal-mart plant….still pretty.

I sure wish I could figure out a way to keep some of the ones with the beautiful blooms downstairs instead of up in my sewing room.  I’m so afraid that the childcare kiddos will ruin them.

One more thing to mention.  I asked about fertilizing the plants….I do.

I use this

I likely don’t use it as often as I should or could but I do use it…and I ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS use African Violet Potting Soil.

One happy thing to note….(at least I think it’s a happy thing) I ended up placing an order with The Violet Barn.  I went a little overboard with ordering.  Why is it once I cave and give in to ordering, I can’t stop putting things in my cart.  Hmmm.  I think it’s time I ask Hubby for anther window shelf to put Violets in….I’m gonna need more space!!

…and yes Nell, I think I will have a few Violets to sell at the retreat.

13 thoughts on “Ask Jo: African Violets”

  1. Never had luck with African violets! I was told you need the right window lighting by my father-in-law! He doesn’t do anything special to his and they grow like crazy!!!! He says he found the perfect window for them!

  2. Great information. I have about 6 plants but they do not look lhealthy like yours and none are blooming. I’ll keep on trying because they are so beautiful.

  3. Do you ever have problems with bugs on your plants? I gave up on African violets due to mealybugs and mites. Couldn’t find any way to control them.

  4. Mary Jo Boland

    There’s always spray paint to change the color of your pots. You could have a rainbow of pots, or change the pots to fit the season. Or here’s a better idea. Decoupage some fabric on the outside of the pots – you might have some laying around. :>)

  5. Sharon Bultman

    For your larger plants, check thrift stores for orchid planters, they have the built-in lip in the planter to hold other pot out of water. Your plants are gorgeous.

  6. Never grew an African violet before I found two 1/2 dead plants on a clearance shelf @ Lowe’s last Fall for $1 ea..Dealt I could give them a better home than they had so put out the $2 bucks as a love jesture…Have an East facing kitchen window so looked on Google for tips and followed advice I found.. Don’t overeater but keep moist, use non-clorinated water and feed..Soon as they were rehydrated they bloomed with gratitude and I was hooked..Thru the winter months they slacked off flowering but foliage flourished and became healthy..It’s now May and again an abundance of blooms have opened on one plant and I’m elated ; nurturing the other and hoping it too will bloom again soon…I think it’s time to try and put them into larger pots so reading what I can before going that route…Wish me luck..

    1. Violets go through a little bit of a dormant season. I have one every year that I swear is going to die but so far, it comes back all the time.

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